Birthmarked by Caragh M. O’Brien

I was initially drawn to the dystopian element in Birthmaked by Caragh M. O’Brien. Unfortunately, I’m either seriously sick of the dystopian genre or this book didn’t do it for me; I hope it’s the latter.
 In the future, in a world baked dry by the harsh sun, there are those who live inside the walled Enclave and those, like sixteen-year-old Gaia Stone, who live outside. Following in her mother’s footsteps Gaia has become a midwife, delivering babies in the world outside the wall and handing a quota over to be “advanced” into the privileged society of the Enclave. Gaia has always believed this is her duty, until the night her mother and father are arrested by the very people they so loyally serve.Now Gaia is forced to question everything she has been taught, but her choice is simple: enter the world of the Enclave to rescue her parents, or die trying.A stunning adventure brought to life by a memorable heroine, this dystopian debut will have readers racing all the way to the dramatic finish.
 This was a really good story. Was I lost in it? No, but it presented a warm message on the importance of life.
I really enjoyed the beginning. It was a very clean, well-paced introduction into O’Brien’s literary world. In fact, it was pretty well-paced throughout but there wasn’t anything there to connect the characters to the reader. Gaia was such a stong character with a well-developed voice and personality. The other characters, however, were not, with the exception of Gaia’s mother. They were all the same in tone and I couldn’t tell any of them apart even with the main love interest, Leon. I was confused a majority of the time on who was who.
The story had everything it needed to make a good novel, however, it just didn’t click. It missed some cohesive elements that would have brought the book up to another level. I’m not exactly sure what those are, but that’s the magic of books — you’ve either got it or you don’t. If you’re looking for romance, this isn’t the book for you. The romance was seriously lacking; there wasn’t anything until the last 50 pages, and there wasn’t enough build up or tension to keep readers interested.
A lot happens in this book, but I didn’t find myself on the edge of my seat or reeling in anticipation of what would happen next. It read more like a catalog of events, and I think that’s the main issue I have with this book. It was a lot of tell and very little show. Everything I knew about the characters was because I was told; I didn’t get to figure anything out for myself or make my own assumptions. Isn’t that the best thing about being a reader? We get to know the character and make our own decision on whether we like/dislike a character based on his/her actions. With this book, I felt like the decision was made for me. In short, O’Brien is a little pushy and I’m not sure if I like it.
Overall, the concept was really interesting and I loved Gaia, but because the supporting roles were so weak, it kind of ruined it for me. It was good enough that I will read the sequel. Prized. However, I don’t feel like gushing about it so that should speak volumes on whether I really recommend it or not.

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